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The dirty side of Paris (Paris Sewer Museum)

Never wondered about what happens under the fashionable streets of Paris? The answer is at Paris Sewer Museum, in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris. This is a small museum that, despite being located in one of the most touristy areas in Paris, has few visits. A pity because few cities offer the possibility of such an original and quirky visit through their entrails!

READ MORE –   Carrières des Capucins: the local alternative to Paris Catacombs

paris sewer museum

1889: A SEWER MUSEUM FOR PARIS

Organized tours of the Paris’ Sewers were first offered in 1889. Guided Paris Underground Tours were available during “the nice season” twice a month and visitors were transported through the sewer system on wagons and boats.

paris sewer museum

The entrance to the Paris Sewer Museum in 1889

 

paris sewer museum

The current entrance to the Paris Sewer Museum

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VISITING THE SEWER MUSEUM TODAY

Today the Paris Sewer Museum details along 500 m of their tunnels the history of the sewer system in Paris, from the former Roman city of Lutetia (first name of Paris) to its modern structure (XIX century). The history of the sewers is explained in a very pedagogical way, all in parallel with the history of Paris. The museum also details the role of sewer workers and methods of water treatment. We were happy to know that Paris is the city which has the biggest and most modern sewer system in the world!

paris sewer museumvia Flickr CC @Chris Yunker

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The Paris sewers system has 2.400 km of tunnels and galleries. In this Paris Underground City, the streets have the same name and the same Parisian street sign than their corresponding streets on the surface so impossible to get lost.

paris sewer museumvia Flickr CC @Hugo Clément

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CURIOUS & INTERESTING THINGS THAT WE LEARNED 

The Paris sewer system is also used to heat a local swimming pool in Paris. How? As in cities everywhere, thousands of liters of heated water drain into Paris’ sewage system every day. This water comes from showers, dishwashers and washing machines. The average water temperature through the sewage network is 13 degree Celsius during the winter and 20 degrees in summer. This domestic greywater naturally transfers its heat to the pipes that it flows through which then dissipates in the underground tunnels without any use.  However, a new stainless steel lining can recapture between four and eight degrees of this warmth. The system, developed by French waste and water group Suez, can boost this to 50 degrees and pump water to where it is needed.

paris sewer museum

Some other interesting things that we learned during our visit:

  • Romans built an initial sewer system along the alignment of the present Boulevard Saint Michel, flowing into the Seine in what is now Place Saint Michel;
  • In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte decided to dig the Ourcq Channel to supply up to 70.000 m3 a day. His decision followed his conversation with the chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal, minister of the Interior at that time, during which Napoleon expressed his desire to “do something grand and useful for Paris”. Chaptal replied: give people water!
  • The Alma Bridge (1854-56) inaugurated by Napoleon III to commemorate the victory against Russians in Crimea (1854) has 4 sculptures representing the four kinds of soldiers who participated in this war. The Zouave (French soldier from the North Africa armies) is the only original statue still on its place (the others were moved to museums) and has the sad task to measure the Seine’s floods. It is not an official measurement system, it is mostly a sentimental thing for Parisians. The access to the footpaths along the river quays is usually closed when the Seine’s level reaches the feet of the Zouave. When the water hits his thighs, the river is not navigable. During the great flood of the Seine (1910) the level reached his shoulders (+8.62m).

paris sewer museum

paris sewer museum

The Zouave during the floods in Paris (June 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

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PARIS SEWER MUSEUM TIPS AND PRACTICAL INFO

We suggest visiting this museum in the summertime because the temperature is a little bit fresh.

The smell in the galleries is not that bad as you may think. If you are very sensitive it is better to visit this museum in the winter time when the smell is less strong.

The museum is open every day from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm (4.00 pm in winter time) except Thursday and Friday. In January the museum closes for 2 weeks for a general maintenance but the website does not specify the dates.

Ticket price is 4.2 € (Adults)

Address is Pont de l’Alma, place de la Résistance, (in front of 93 quai d’Orsay) 75007 Paris. M. Alma-Marceau, L9 or RER Pont de l’Alma-Musée du Quai Branly, LC; Vélib post #7.022

Post’s featured image via Flickr CC @Shadowgate

 

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  • Sridhar @InterludeJourney
    03/09/2017 at 5:04 pm

    It looks so much cleaner than I expected! You’ve definitely told us about some of the more unusal sights to see in Paris and i’m glad you made it underground and off the beaten track after all!

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:50 pm

      Told like this sounds like the biggest adventure, hahahah 🙂

  • Indrani
    03/09/2017 at 3:48 pm

    The concept of sewer may seem weird but it is important. A proper sewerage system is must for smooth functioning of city. and this museum definitely helps learn the flaws and development. I doubt if any other city in the world has this kind of museum.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:51 pm

      Barcelona has something like this. But you only walk through the sewer system, there is not the museum part

  • Swati & Sam (The tales of a traveler )
    03/08/2017 at 1:57 pm

    This is really interesting and a unique way of using the drainage water for heating a swimming pool. I have never read about this Sewer Museum not read about them on – Things to Do lists. Thanks for sharing such offbeat and hidden gems.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:53 pm

      For information Paris wants to heat another public swimming pool with the computers’ heat emissions of a big data center

  • Sandy N Vyjay
    03/08/2017 at 5:48 am

    It is indeed a tribute to the artistic finesses we associate with Paris, that even its sewers are the subject of a museum. This is really unique, we were not able to visit this during our last trip, hope to include it in our itinerary next time around.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:54 pm

      If you did the Seine tour by boat you were veeeery close to it! 🙂

  • neha
    03/08/2017 at 5:45 am

    A sewer museum sounds so different and unique. I have not heard of one anywhere else in the world. And I had no idea so far that one exists in Paris. I would love to see it when I visit Paris

    • WorldInParis
      03/09/2017 at 10:40 pm

      I saw another one in Barcelona, but YES, this is not the kind of activity that many cities propose to visitors 😉

  • Vicky and Buddy
    03/08/2017 at 2:52 am

    How interesting! I’ve been to Paris twice now and had no idea that you could visit its sewers. I was happy to read that the smell isn’t as bad as you’d think, because that was the first thing I wondered about! That’s for sharing something so off the beaten path!

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 10:26 pm

      It is not off the beaten path, it is under the beaten path, lol 😉 If you are too sensitive to smells it is better to go in winter time.

  • Louiela
    03/07/2017 at 8:29 pm

    Since I love going to the outskirts, this post is for me… 🙂 oh, Schengen visa, please be nice to me… I want to visit Paris and its outskirts soon… 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 10:27 pm

      Good luck with the Schengen visa, is it difficult for Philippines? Make me know if you make it to Paris! 🙂

  • Carmen's Luxury Travel
    03/07/2017 at 1:55 pm

    There’s a sewer museum in Paris?! That’s actually really fascinating. I think my kids would love to do this. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Anita Hendrieka
    03/07/2017 at 11:07 am

    Wow that’s not something tourists would read in their guidebooks! Such a cool and quirky thing to do in Paris.

  • Andi
    03/07/2017 at 3:18 am

    This is great! I have not seen the other side of Paris and all I see are the magnificent and flashy pictures of it. Like everyone dreams on visiting Paris because it feels so nice. But the sewer museum is something unique. I never knew that this is also used to provide some hot waters in some area. Nice read.

    • WorldInParis
      11/10/2017 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks Andi for stopping by! 🙂

  • Holly
    03/06/2017 at 5:11 pm

    I had no idea there was a sewer museum. Not sure it is something I would want to visit, but that is interesting.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:33 pm

      It is really interesting (and does not smell that bad 😉 )

  • Alina Popescu
    03/06/2017 at 11:11 am

    Wouldn’t have thought a sewer museum would be an interesting idea, but you’ve certainly showed me differently. I’d love to explore this, along with the long history it highlights.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:33 pm

      I am sure you would like it, Alina 🙂

  • Jennifer
    03/05/2017 at 5:01 pm

    I’m not keen on museums in the first place, and this one definitely isn’t the tour for me. Some things I just think are better left to the imagination!

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:34 pm

      Ahahahaha hahah. Let’s see it is another way to see Paris, from another point of view 😉

  • Jing
    03/05/2017 at 3:53 pm

    It’s interesting to know that as early as the Roman times, they’re already using the concept of water recycling and treatment, and energy recovery. I similarly learned this when I visited ancient cities in Turkey but didn’t know that Paris has such a sewer museum, where you could really see the underground structure. Thanks for sharing, will definitely put this on my list the next time I visit Paris.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks for your comment Jing! Well I think Romans just canalized dirty waters to the Seine, maybe I need to review the way that I wrote it 🙂

  • Drew
    03/05/2017 at 1:29 pm

    What an interesting museum, and one that I’m sure is not in any guidebook. That is what makes great cities like Paris so special. Just when you think you have seen, heard, or read everything there is to know, you find out you are completely wrong! I find this sort of engineering projects interesting, despite the fact that it is a sewer. Who know that I have probably walked over this museum countless times on my visits to Paris!

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:37 pm

      Yep, you probably walked over this museum when in Paris because it is located along Quai Branly (so a very touristy area) 😉

  • Nathan
    03/05/2017 at 8:13 am

    This is so cool– a really unique museum. I would love to do this tour. I like finding interesting or unique things to do when visiting a new city.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:39 pm

      Oh, if you like interesting or unique things this should definitely be on your Paris wishlist 😉

  • Tom
    03/05/2017 at 4:21 am

    I’ve always been hesitant to visit this place because, eh, sewers. Only the French would do this, or eh, maybe the Chinese. Still, it’s hard for me to think of spending an afternoon in Paris anywhere underground, on purpose. Thanks for the intro though–perhaps I’ll use this exposure as an excuse for not actually going myself.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:39 pm

      Ahahah. It is a good choice when it is too hot in Paris. For information, you can also visit the sewers in Barcelona (a cooler visit than in Paris, by the way . .)

  • Authentic Food Quest
    03/05/2017 at 4:06 am

    I love the post. Paris will always be in the heart of a traveler. Their culture is great.

  • Mike Cotton
    03/04/2017 at 11:42 am

    What an interesting post. Paris is a stunning city, full of life and vibrant culture. You don’t often get to see and read about it Paris’ underground world.

    • WorldInParis
      03/04/2017 at 1:28 pm

      As I wrote on the post, not many people know about this museum. Thanks for stopping by Mike 🙂

  • LC
    12/07/2016 at 10:29 am

    That’s quite an interesting looking (and smelling, I’m sure) museum! I’ve got a rubbish sense of smell, so I don’t think I’d quite mind it. That’s an interesting fact about The Zouave too, a practical purpose for keeping it there for sure!

  • ERICA POYAUAN
    11/27/2016 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve always wanted to know what happens under Paris’ fashionable streets! After reading your post I conclude Paris is so fab even a dirty place could delight visitors (or online readers like me)!

    • WorldInParis
      12/02/2016 at 11:54 am

      Lol, Thanks for your comment Erica 🙂

  • Indrani
    11/25/2016 at 10:53 am

    This is a new facet of Paris, totally unknown to me.
    Good to know this part of history too.

    • WorldInParis
      11/26/2016 at 10:11 am

      An original “museum” to visit indeed 😉

  • Paul
    06/27/2016 at 4:08 pm

    Being keen urban explorers this looks like something we would love to do!

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:53 pm

      Paul, sure! 🙂

  • Brianna
    06/27/2016 at 3:36 pm

    This is certainly a different way to experience Paris! How much does the museum/tour cost?

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:54 pm

      4,50€ (less for kids I guess), it is written at the end of the post 😉

  • Curious Claire
    06/27/2016 at 12:04 pm

    I actually really want to do this. I love the weird stuff like this 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:54 pm

      Me too! 🙂

  • Jenn
    06/27/2016 at 10:33 am

    Of course even the sewers in Paris are beautiful! 🙂 You always have the coolest, random things I would never find in guidebooks in your posts. Thanks for sharing this one!

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks for your comment Jenn, glad that you liked this post! 🙂

  • Vicki Louise
    06/27/2016 at 4:08 am

    Wow! I didn’t know this existed – (obviously it exists as its a service imperative to the running of a city – but I didn’t know it was a tourist attraction!) I love how there is practically another city below the city with the sewers, the catacombs, the underground – its just fab!

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:55 pm

      You said it, it is the city below the city 😉

      • Vicki Louise
        03/06/2017 at 5:44 am

        It’s just fascinating! I will definitely be visiting when we’re next in Paris!

  • Nancy
    06/27/2016 at 3:43 am

    Wow, I never even knew this was in Paris! For anyone who wants to see the hidden Paris this looks like a must do. I know I would!

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:56 pm

      That’s the goal of this blog, to show you sth more about Paris 😉

  • sarah
    06/27/2016 at 12:19 am

    I had heard of this tour before, but I never did it because i was afraid it might involve crawling around in stinky tunnels. Now I see this I wish I had made the effort. Always good to hear about something different to do in Paris.

    • WorldInParis
      06/27/2016 at 7:56 pm

      Oh, no, it is like a city below the city . . . no “crawling problems” at all 😉

  • Claire
    06/26/2016 at 9:31 pm

    Haha, this was a great read! It’s important to know that travel isn’t always about beautiful landscapes and buildings; it’s about really getting to know a country or city, and how better to get to know Paris than through its sewer system?!

    • WorldInParis
      06/26/2016 at 9:42 pm

      Hahahah, just trying to show Paris off the beaten path 😉 Thanks for your comment, Claire

  • Carolina Colborn
    06/26/2016 at 5:07 pm

    Quite interesting! I found a Trash Museum in Connecticut, too, but it was dedicated to the inroads they are making in the trash recycling industry.

    • WorldInParis
      06/26/2016 at 9:24 pm

      Lol! I would not call this museum a trash museum, lol. Anyway, thans for stopping by 🙂

  • Laura @ Sometime Traveller
    06/26/2016 at 4:19 pm

    Well that’s definitely not something you’ll read about in all the guidebooks! It’s nice to read about something so unusual in Paris, though, makes a change from the endless posts about Laduree macarons!

    • WorldInParis
      06/26/2016 at 9:26 pm

      That’s exactly THE GOAL OF THIS BLOG! We want to shake Paris and show people that there is much more than Tour Eiffel and macarons (quite yummy though) 😉

  • LISA
    06/26/2016 at 3:54 pm

    I love history so I would do this tour too. It’s the little things you don’t think about that make any city function.

    • WorldInParis
      06/26/2016 at 9:27 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa! Happy you enjoyed the post 🙂